Attendance by both automakers (no Honda and Mitsubishi, for example) and the paying public (750,000 compared with 1m in 2007) is expected to be down but Frankfurt’s 63rd motor show, though a more compact version of the last event two years ago, still has a lot to interest, particularly in electric vehicles and alternative fuel powertrains.

Though there are fewer participants and visitors there will be more world launches, the German VDA auto federation said this week.

“Innovation is the way out of the crisis” that global automakers have been in since last year, VDA chief Matthias Wissmann told news agency AFP.

A tally of 781 vehicle and components manufacturers from 30 countries will present around 100 new models, VDA said.

Western European sales are down around 11% and several key markets like Germany, Spain and the UK have been propped up by government incentive schemes but the view is not all upbeat.

“There will be claims that the end of the crisis is in sight, but in truth the sector is in grave danger,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) newspaper said.

Wissmann nonetheless insisted that the number of newsworthy events and launches would see this year’s show “gain in quality” despite the lower numbers.

Many manufacturers plan to present EVs or hybrid vehicles that run on petrol and electricity.

Among eagerly awaited launches are another Mini variant from BMW unit Mini and a four-vehicle range spanning city cars to utility models by the Renault-Nissan alliance.

“Electric vehicles will be seen on almost every stand,” German auto expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer has forecast.

Fuel-cell and hybrid vehicles from Mercedes, Peugeot and Toyota are also expected.

Crowd pullers to attract the public on Thursday after two media preview days include new models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes and Ferrari’s new 458 Italia.